A Latin proverb adds a spiritual dimension to the point: non multa sed multum, or “not many things but much.” Jesuits didn’t coin that phrase, though I’ve heard it attributed to them, probably because its spirit so closely aligns with other Jesuit ideals.
The quality with which a work is done—the “muchness” of it—can be more important than the sheer quantity of tasks a person completes. What value, for example, that a social worker counsels fifty people a day if each feels like a processed can rolling through an assembly line? Or what value is there in people parroting hundreds of prayers without real conscious engagement? We earlier quoted Archbishop Oscar Romero’s take on this theme: “We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something and do it very well.” Or as Mother Teresa put it: “We cannot do great things on this earth; we can only do little things with great love.”
—Excerpted from Heroic Living by Chris Lowney